Obama to Nominate Dempsey for Another Term as Joint Chiefs Chairman

From women in combat to sexual assault and sequestration, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey has overseen transformative changes.

(Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey testifies on Capitol Hill on the Defense Department's fiscal 2014 budget.

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The nation's top military officer whose two-year tenure has witnessed sweeping changes in the U.S. military will likely stay on for another term.

President Barack Obama will nominate Army Gen. Martin Dempsey to continue to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel late Wednesday. Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chair, will also be nominated to stay on.

Dempsey has held the position since the fall of 2011, and has overseen the end of the war in Iraq, the waning months of the war in Afghanistan, the overturn of the policy against openly gay service members, the introduction of women into combat, high-profile sexual assaults and unprecedented budget shortfalls.

"America is very fortunate to have Gen. Dempsey and Adm. Winnefeld," said Hagel on Wednesday, calling this "a very difficult, challenging time" for the military. These positions must be approved by the Senate for confirmation.

Dempsey, a career armor officer, graduated from West Point in 1974 and would eventually serve on the faculty there. His previous assignments included deployments with the Third Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and as colonel of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment from 1996 to 1998. He served as an adviser and trainer to the Saudi National Guard in the early 2000s and eventually commanded the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. Dempsey was the 37th Army chief of staff before beginning his current position in September 2011.

[READ: Army to Cut 80,000 Soldiers From Its Ranks, Chief Says]

"Marty," as he is known among top Pentagon brass, has been one of the most visible figures during national security issues in the last two years. He initially voiced his support for arming the rebels in Syria in 2012, before walking that back earlier this year after reports that groups linked to al-Qaida had integrated into the rebel ranks.

He has also countered pressure from Congress in April for Obama to implement a no-fly zone in the region.

One of the more headline-grabbing events during Dempsey's term took place on Sept. 11, 2012 when a diplomatic facility in Benghazi was attacked by surprise. It took the military hours to respond, which provoked vitriol from some members of Congress shortly after.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted Dempsey before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, calling the general's statements about the incident bizarre and questioning why the military response was not swifter.

"Our [military] posture was not there because we did not take into account the threats. That's why four Americans died," McCain said.

"I stand by my testimony, your dispute of it nonwithstanding," Dempsey replied. "We never received a request of support from the State Department."

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The general would look to Congress months later for assistance in combating a spate of high-profile reports of sexual assault within the military that drew international attention.

More than 10 years of war had muddied the issue of sexual assaults, he said, adding he would look to multiple proposals from Congress for potential solutions.

"You might argue we've become a little too forgiving," said Dempsey in May. "If a perpetrator shows up in a court martial with a rack of ribbons and has four deployments and a Purple Heart [Medal], there is certainly the risk that we might be a little too forgiving of that particular crime."

He has so far held fast against recommendations to remove commanders' authority to oversee the resulting legal action.

Dempsey has also been tasked with walking a fine line since the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration took place on March 1. As the nation's top military officer he has tried to assure the nation that he will be able to maintain its safety while also convincing Congress that the slashed budget will have painful effects.

"We won't be the global power that we know ourselves to be today," he said of the lasting effects of the cuts.